Photography: Andy Barter; Words: Simon de Burton
IWC Portofino Chronograph
Like many historic Swiss watch houses, IWC was almost destroyed by the so-called ‘quartz crisis’ of the Seventies, but it came through, thanks to a visionary called Günter Blümlein, who was appointed managing director to the then-ailing firm in 1982. As part of his re-positioning strategy, Blümlein created the original ‘Portofino’ models, which combined the style of IWC’s larger-diameter ‘wrist pocket watches’ with a smaller case size in a bid to broaden the maker’s appeal. Thirty years on, the Portofino has a distinct air of being a thinking man’s IWC – as demonstrated by this 42mm version.
Bell & Ross BR123 Sport Heritage
For a brand that was only launched in 1992, Bell & Ross has a good grasp on the ‘vintage’ look – as demonstrated by the BR123 Sport Heritage, designed to emulate the appearance of an aviation piece from the Sixties. The retro style comes through the use of buff-coloured dial markings and military-style ‘sword’ hands, combined with a heavily domed crystal that stands proud of the rotating outer bezel. Featuring a 41mm steel case and a choice of rubber strap or metal bracelet, the BR123 contains a simple and reliable ETA 2892 self-winding movement.
Panerai Luminor Base Acciaio
Acciaio translates as ‘stainless steel,’ but has a broader meaning because it was also the name of a class of submarine used by the Italian navy during World War II – a reflection of Panerai’s origins as a manufacturer of nautical instruments and, from the late Thirties, military wrist watches. The P5000 movement within the 44mm case is a further nod to the brand’s history, since it features an eight-day power reserve, just like a small series of watches made during the Forties for Italy’s naval commandos. Original Panerais containing these so-called ‘Angelus’ movements now fetch six-figure sums.
Chopard L.U.C 1937
‘L.U.C’ stands for Louis-Ulysse Chopard, who founded his firm in Switzerland’s Jura mountains in 1860. The other part of the name, ‘1937’, is the year Chopard moved to Geneva. This 42mm watch contains the ‘01.01L’ automatic movement launched in 2010 to mark Chopard’s 150th anniversary. Made in-house at the manufacture established in 1996 at Fleurier (back in the Jura), it features a stop-seconds device for accurate time-setting and is chronometer-certified for accuracy. The mechanism is renowned for its robustness – useful for those who wear a ‘dress watch’ day and night.
£12,270 (rose gold on alligator strap); chopard.com
Breitling TransOcean Day and Date
Breitling’s TransOcean range harks back to the early years of intercontinental air travel. The line includes GMT, chronograph and world-time chronograph models, but none quite captures the elegance of Fifties aviation as well as this ‘Day and Date’ model which features a slim, 43mm case with a nicely bevelled bezel. Inside, there’s the chronometer-certified Breitling 45 self-winding movement. The watch is available in steel or red gold and on various coloured leather straps, the perforated metal Air Racer bracelet or, best of all, the Ocean Classic mesh version pictured above.
£4,180 (steel); breitling.com
Omega De Ville Trésor
Omega’s Trésor dress watches first appeared in 1949 and were characterised by elegant, slim gold cases, superb movements and (sometimes) interesting, textured dials. Now, 65 years later, the deliciously understated Trésor is back, but with a wealth of 21st-century horological science. The hand-wound, chronometer-certified, co-axial movement is one of the most accurate and is enhanced by a silicone balance spring. It is also ultra-antimagnetic, capable of withstanding 15,000 Gauss. The honeycomb dial is topped with exquisitely curved hands, while a domed crystal provides the finishing touch.